Room for one more and another and another…

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Bandung, a university city, is a popular weekend destination for Jakarta folk who make the 3-hour journey to visit the volcanoes.

We decide to stay 3 nights to give us 2 full days in the city, one day to explore the city and its famous factory retail outlets, the other to make a day trip an hour outside of Bandung to see the volcano.

Backpacking with a baby - Bandung

'Jeans Street' - factory outlet area, Bandung. The Camden of Asia!

Accommodation in Bandung is of poor quality, the majority of which are tired looking mid range hotels that increase their rates by 50% at the weekend to capitalise on the huge influx of visitors.

Our first night was spent in a basic motel style room that left a lot to be desired on the cleanliness front. It also had a very strange breakfast scenario, a knock on the door at 6.30am where we were presented with a tray carrying two cups of tea and 4 slices of toast. Having ‘the boy’ with us meant that we were indeed awake at that time, but it was still a little strange. Not wanting to pay the 50% hike in price for the two remaining weekend nights we moved to the only hostel in Bandung. Now this really is basic. Again it’s not spotless, but the bed was huge, the sheets were clean, we had an en-suite and breakfast was included, all for total cost of £7 a night. Bargain!

The highlight of day one was ‘the boy’ taking his first steps. Typically I missed it as we were in a shop at the time and I was in the changing room trying on a skirt. (Annoyingly it didn’t even look nice so there was no benefit to missing the event).  I heard a round of applause and cheering from the 7 or 8 staff that had gathered around ‘the boy’ to pinch and cuddle him. Apparently he was standing up, holding onto a clothes stand, he let go, stood still unaided and then took 12 steps….  ‘A few toddles later and we can confirm that the boy’ is now fully mobile.

Day two and we head to the volcano. Being backpackers on a budget we prefer to use local transport rather than chartering our own taxi or minibus, particularly as it’s usually a tenth of the price.

The general scenario is the minibus leaves once it’s full and no sooner. In most Western countries a minibus with space for 13 (at a squeeze) would leave when 13 people had paid their fare and got on board. In Asia that’s not the case as there’s always room for one more!

When we arrived at the depot the bus was pretty full by our standards and my other half was shown a seat on the back row that he could squeeze onto. I spotted a space on the row in front and was about to sit down when the driver pointed to a space the size of a postage stamp next to my other half. I have no idea how I managed to squeeze my Western sized hips into that space but I think the tow other gentlemen sitting next to me suffered.

Yet again ‘the boy’ caused a frenzy on the bus. All of the ladies wanted to hold him so he was passed around from row to row. For the time being we’ve taken a relaxed approach to it as luckily he loves the attention, but our new Danish friends have informed us that in other countries they’ve visited you have to draw the line and say no as the attention can get too much and there is even less respect of personal space.

Anyway, four people later (that’s 20 in total) plus a huge box that was wedged between one poor man and the door, we finally leave.

I’m not going to go into too much detail as my other half has written about the volcano in more detail, but essentially, years ago the Tangkuban Prahu crater collapsed under the weight of built up ash and, instead of the usual conical volcano shape, it has a flat, elongated summit with a huge caldera.

Backpacking with a baby in SE Asia

'The boy' samples some food at the top of the volcano

At 2076m high it’s a little cooler than the towns below, but even so, still warm enough to wear a t-shirt. Looking at the local tourists though you would think we were in Antarctica. Many people were wearing thick coats, woolly hats and scarves. I think they would have a shock to know that the temperature up there was still warmer than our recent British summers.

On the walk down from the crater we stopped off at the ‘Kawah Domas’ a volcanic area of steaming, bubbling geysers where you can sit and dip your legs into the steaming water. One geyser is boiling and for a small fee we were able to pop an egg in a basket and boil it for ‘the boy’. Not many one year olds can say they’ve eaten an egg cooked in a volcano.

Backpacking with a baby in SE Asia

Foot spa!

Within a few minutes of making it back onto the small road that winds its way down the mountain the heavens opened and a huge thunderstorm descended upon us. We were able to shelter under a little wooden hut serving hot drinks and became the target for the local tourist taxis that hiked their prices up fourfold knowing we were in a weak negotiation position. Being stubborn, and not wanting to pay their silly prices, we decided to wait for the heavy rain to stop so that we could walk down the mountain as originally planned. In hindsight we should have taken a taxi, as 2 hours later we were still standing there! I’m sure there must be some circumstances when being ripped off can be justified.

Four hours later than our anticipated return we finally made it back to Bandung. A little cold, a little wet, but a memorable day all the same.

Top tip of the day:
If you have a dual position sling (front and back wearing), and you’re planning on using local buses, wear the sling on your front. It’s easy to jump on and off transport and sit with your baby on your lap without having to remove the sling for every journey.

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